BUILDING a high quality apprenticeship route is a key element of Scottish skills policy. But, given rapid expansion, has there been a trade-off between volume and quality?
The recent apprenticeship survey by Skills Development Scotland shows good progress has been made. Apprentices value their training, see it as being of good quality and like the fact they can learn while in a job rather than through short-term work experience. The chance for practical, hands-on training also fits the needs of significant numbers of young people. The survey data on pay levels shows that apprentices are, in the main, valued by their employers.
The results reflect the firm foundations that have been laid for revitalising and growing apprenticeship provision in Scotland.
The decision initially t6o reserve the apprenticeship brand for Level 3 (craft and intermediate) training, and to only allow Level 2 provision once apprenticeships were well established has paid dividends and helped bolster the status and attractiveness of the apprenticeship route.
In terms of future development, a lesson from many European countries is that growing both the incidence and quality of off-the-job training in apprenticeships would enhance the breadth and depth of learning taking place.
Given young people’s highly positive response to apprenticeship, demand for places is likely to grow. This means more employers need to engage in the public/private sector partnership that supports and delivers apprenticeship.
There are good reasons for more organisations to get involved. Apprenticeships can offer firms several benefits. They can help create skilled and loyal employees, and develop both technical and people skills that are best learned in the workplace. They can also, if properly designed, offer training that goes beyond the skills needed for an entry-level job and support professional progression.
And, besides providing skilled workers and technicians, apprenticeship can be an excellent route into managerial positions.
• Professor Ewart Keep is on the Scottish Skills Committee and is deputy director of Skope (Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance) at Cardiff University.